Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Sunday Salon: (My First!) & The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing

I love reading The Sunday Salon posts, they are often so relaxing and offer a glimpse of life behind the curtain of book reviews and stat-tracking.  I tried to convince myself that it was not the best use of my time to begin a new project one week before my vacation, when there are so many other things needing to be done, but I didn't listen.  Spending some time sipping tea, surrounded by books, and putting everything into perspective sounds like the perfect way to spend part of my Sunday.

I started my book blog at the end of 2008 as a way to track my reading life without inundating my family blog, but I didn't really join the book blogging community until last June.  As you all know, this is one fabulous group of people, and the time I spend blogging and visiting remains a rewarding addition to my life.  In the 9 months or so since I decided to put more effort into my blog, my blogging style has gone (and continues to go) through changes.  Sometimes these changes are spurred by an imbalance somewhere--type and quantity of reading, type and quantity of blog posts--but sometimes they are spurred by something I've read in a book or on a blog, something that makes me consider what I'm doing from a different angle.

The Slippery Art of Book ReviewingReviewing books in a blog format, just for the joy of sharing bookish thoughts and starting bookish conversations, is different than writing book reviews in a less personal way, as a means to building a career in the industry.  Depending on your style, involvement, and platform, this may be a fine line...but I think it is one worth exploring.  Reading The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing (a title which bugs me every time I think it, say it, type it, read it, type it...what is slippery?  books aren't slippery, nor are reviews, nor even [most] art.  I don't like the idea of slippery-ness. What are we sliding into? Away from? Ugh.) has made me reconsider again, my approach to writing book reviews.

In the past I think I've tended towards maintaining a professionalism in my reviews, striving for nicely constructed sentences and fulfilling prose, often sacrificing strong opinions, humor or passion in the process. The [er...] Art of Book Reviewing has helped me to realize that I am not interested in making a career of book reviewing.  I want to read what I choose to read, and I want to be able to chat about it.  Why it took me so long to realize this, or why it was a fairly simple book that brought me to the realization, I have no idea.  I liked that the book showed that writing short reviews or long reviews is a matter of taste, on the part of the one reading it, the one writing it, and the one publishing it.  I prefer shorter reviews, and have occasionally felt inferior because of it--no more!!

This book also touches on book blogging, and includes resources for becoming more involved in book reviewing professionally, both things I appreciated.  If you are interested in some of the how's and why's behind book reviews, this book is worth a read.  Maybe you'll even get lucky like me and come away with a bit of perspective as well.  Is it ironic that the post in which I talk about my preference for short reviews happens to be a post of some length?

The week ahead, my last week home before my Ireland trip, (a place I've wanted to visit for such a long time,) is all about organization.  My thoughts, my house, my suitcase, etc.  I'm hoping to be able too continue to spend some time here in the off moments, but I'm trying to come to terms with the fact that my time and internet will be limited.  It's reassuring to know that when April rolls around, and my life resumes some semblance of normality for a while, you will all still be around, ready to talk books.  Here's to a productive week!

Title: The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing
Author: Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards
Pages: 186
Published: 2008 Twilight Times Books
My Rating: 3 stars


  1. Welcome to Sunday Salon. I love reading the variety of posts, too! "The Slippery Art.." sounds interesting.

  2. Sounds like an interesting and useful book. I hope you have a wonderful trip. I'm prepping for a week long trip to NY myself and I know it can be hectic.

    Here is my salon:

  3. I love The Sunday Salon because it points my attention to the wonderful book blogs I've yet to find. I really enjoyed reading this post - and the book sounds fascinating, though I have to agree about the title. :)

  4. That's a pretty intriguing little tome you reviewed there :)

    That said, I have asked myself numerous questions of my own reviewing habit. Are my reviews templated? Am I being unfair to certain writers using this format (Pynchon or Nabokov for example). I think there's not much obligation, but maybe a certain brevity when doing a book review on a blog. People don't read blogs because they want something thorough. They do it mainly to get opinions, while learning a thing or two. It's a question of finding the right pace for your audience I guess...

  5. Off to add Slippery Art to my wishlist. Enjoy Ireland. My parents felt it was the best part of their trip to Europe.

    Here is my Sunday Salon post: I hope you will stop by and say hello.

  6. I also think that book reviewing is more enjoyable if it remains professionally qualitative and written firmly but politely, and all for the sake of exchanging ideas with people, not for publishing or being paid. Here here! By the way, congratulations are in order: I see you have 100 followers now :)

  7. Sounds like a great book. It is interesting to think about exactly what you're doing with a review...providing a service, or pleasing yourself? Welcome to the Sunday Salon. I love the posts here.

  8. I love The Sunday Salon for all the reasons described above...and it also feels like a place to go to chat and visit blogs that I don't normally see during the week. I like the storytelling aspect of these posts. I feel as though I am chatting with friends.

    The book you described sounds helpful.

    Oh,and welcome to The Sunday Salon! Enjoy Ireland...I long to go there. My eldest son lived there for awhile in the mid-nineties, then he moved on to Prague and now Berlin.


  9. I've just started my book blog. I don't know how I could talk about books and not talk about personal issues as well. I can't divorce myself from my books it seems. So, I may need to read more about what a book blog is supposed to be, but I've decided I'm not following anyone else's rules. If someone wants to read it fine. If no one want to read it fine. I just want to talk about books with whomever would like to talk to me. I really love it when your personality shines through on your posts, Melody.

  10. I most definitely prefer a brief and personalized 'review', over a long and formal one. I don't need plot points and all that, unless you're telling me your reactions to the plot points. I could easily Google a title, to get a sterile review.

    Only my thoughts. I also struggle at not being ashamed of a short review. :-)

  11. I may read this some day. For now, being a literature college student, I'm trying to figure out how to analyze a book properly. I also think Slippery is the very wrongest word for this title! And, I can't help but notice for you, congratulations on the perfect 100 followers! You have a blessed and safe trip and can't wait to see you back here in blog world. I have come to really appreciate your reviews just as they are.

  12. Great post.

    Lately, I've been struggling with some issues you discussed in this post. I started blogging last December, and I'm still finding my "voice" as a blogger. Do I write reviews that sound like "real" reviews or more personal ones?

    Most of the time, it depends on the book I'm reading. If I didn't really like it, I end up distancing myself from it. If I loved it, however, I babble about it in a completely personal way. :)

  13. Melody, lovely post. Just as Heidi said, I too cannot imagine writing about books being abstract from my own life and experiences. And to me, reading reviews tightly woven into the carpet of the reviewers life is the most joy! Then I feel way personal for the book, and grow a strong desire to read it.

    I have the "art" review book on my Kindle and am planning to read it sometime soon!

    Welcome to the SS; I am new here, too, and am planning to find some time and start a book blog soon. For now, find me on Goodreads, I post a review for every book I've read this year:


  14. Hi Melody,
    Very interesting post; thank you for sharing this. I will probably be reading this book too, now. :-) I never really considered what I post to my blog as book reviews (in the classical sense) but some probably approach that definition.

  15. I liked this post a lot. There is some delineation between the formal book reviewing and book blogging and its great to analyze a bit and see what side of the line one falls on.

    Well done.

  16. "I want to read what I choose to read, and I want to be able to chat about it."

    I've come to the same conclusion. My blog isn't academic or a strictly professional front. It's a reflection of me. Many choose to use blogs for professional networking and I'm all for that. I think it's wonderful. But I don't want to sacrifice my love of reading and book chatting to creating an online professional (dare I say impersonal) persona. I'm professional when I need to be at work and often at school. I'm sweat-pants me the rest of the time. =)

    But like you said, there's a line for everyone and it move according to personality and personal/professional motivations.

  17. Karen, thanks for coming by and offering the welcome to Sunday Salon!

    Thank you, LBC, I hope your trip to NY goes well also. All the work entailed with getting everything ready for my absence is doing a great job a making be ready to be gone. I need a vacation!

    Carrie, you're right--there are so many quality book blogs out there, and this is a great way to find them. These posts give a real taste of what to expect in the blog since they are more personal.

    Ben, I like that you mentioned habits, because I think that a lot of times we do things out of habit rather than anything else. Of course, habits are necessary, but I do think it is important to be evaluate every now and then--make sure you are doing what you want to be doing, how you want to be doing it.

    Thanks Deb, I'm looking forward to it. My favorite vacation place so far has been Scotland, but I won't be surprised if Ireland surpasses it. 5 more days!

  18. Teacher/Learner--looks like it's time for a giveaway! I've been looking for an excuse. It'll have to wait until I get back, but that'll give me time to decide what to do. :)

    Robyn, thanks for the welcome! I think there should be a balance between providing a service and doing it for yourself. Maybe that's the tricky thing: finding the balance!

    Thanks for coming by, Laurel. Sunday Salon posts do seem more like storytelling, more open and chatty. I love that.

    Heidi, I think that's key--not following anyone else's rules. Your blog is your little book spot and it should reflect that. If you start trying to make it how someone else thinks it should be, then it isn't really you any longer.

    Yes, Jillian, the plot points! Some of those long reviews make me space out. I love that book blogs can provide me with a personalized opinion on a book in a short amount of space, and yet still ponder at length. :)

  19. Belle, I still don't know that I analyze books 'properly'! I'm always torn between wanting to analyze and wanting to experience, you know? I end up somewhere in between with my own sort of analysis. I might not make a very good literature student. :/

    Darlyn, my tone definitely changes depending on how much I liked a book! I love that blogging gives me the opportunity to write a tiny bit, but am always surprised when it takes extra effort to make sure my voice comes through.

    Victoria, thanks for coming by! And welcome to SS as well. :) The reading experience is a personal one, isn't it? I love seeing the personal side in a review, and being able to get to know the reviewer.

    Jay, the book wasn't groundbreaking, but it was interesting. Where it really made me think was in regards to accepting review copies--I enjoy it, but in moderation. I'm not growing a career, so there really isn't any sense in taking on more than what's enjoyable.

    Thanks for coming by Mayowa. Your blog is a great example of professionalism while maintaining the personal element. That balance is really an individual thing. I miss your posts, hope you are getting some good writing done!

    Chelle, "I'm sweatpants me" --love it! It's such a good point, though...blogging usually happens in your off hours (or crammed in somewhere/somehow) and it needs to be worth it in some way. I enjoy writing/reading reviews, but I love what the community (and discussion) adds to that even more.

  20. This sounds like an interesting book!
    I agree with you, book reviewing is different if you're doing it for yourself on a blog, and the long or short becomes a matter of taste. I try to keep as my rule that it is something I'm doing for pleasure and should not feel under any constraint (there are enough of them in the cademic life!).


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